Reel plays it cool after Patrick's shock Rhode
St Patrick's 1-9 Rhode 1-7 Leinster Club SFC
IT may have been no more than a mischievous throwaway line from St Patrick's manager Fergal Reel, but it's still likely to raise some eyebrows inside a certain camp which operates a very effective football business in Newbridge, Co Kildare.
When told after disposing of Rhode in Tullamore, that the Louth champions would have the bonus of home advantage in the Leinster quarter-final next Sunday week, Reel replied: "I didn't know that. Who are we playing?"
"What county (are they)?"
It will no doubt come as a surprise to Sarsfields that their success in the Kildare championship hadn't registered all around Leinster, let alone in a club who were on the same side of the provincial draw.
It might even provide an extra whiff of motivation for them, but, in any event, they will know from yesterday's game that they can expect a well-organised challenge from St Patrick's.
Rhode's success in Offaly earned them a rating as genuine Leinster contenders, but it was the outsiders who provided most of the positive energy on a dark afternoon in O'Connor Park.
Nobody did more to co-ordinate St Patrick's efforts than Paddy Keenan, who continues to retain his status as one of the country's top midfielders. As well as winning lots of primary possession, his ability to avoid of opposition alerts and find himself in open space in productive attacking positions were hugely important for St Patrick's.
Dessie Finnegan and Colin Goss were solid anchors at the heart of the defence, while wing-back Eamon Breen was good as a stopper and a creator (he scored two valuable points). Keenan took charge further forward and the end result was a purposeful performance.
Niall McNamee's 57th minute goal gave Rhode real hope of saving the day as it cut the deficit to two points and their best finisher had an opportunity to score another point from a free shortly afterwards only for his kick to rebound off an upright.
It was a nervous time for St Patrick's, but they held on for a victory which made up for the heartbreak of a one point defeat by Portlaoise in extra-time at the same stage of 's Leinster championship.
"There was a lot of hurt there after last year," said Reel, who was understandably pleased with the manner his squad went about yesterday's challenge.
A sloppy first half produced only six points (three each) as well as a stark reminder of the seriously negative influence that hand-passing is exerting on Gaelic football. There were times when as many as 24 players were squeezed into a small zone where hand-passing appeared to be the only currency allowed.
It was all pretty dreary in this opening half, but the second period brought some improvement, both in the strike rate and the general method, but sadly not to discipline. Referee Joe Curley had to make several interventions as niggly exchanges disrupted the flow and by the end, 11 players had been yellow-carded.
The match-changing period came between the 36th and 42nd minutes when St Patrick's scored 1-2 without reply. The goal was the result of a well-taken penalty by Karl White while the two points were kicked by Eoin O'Connor and Eamon Carroll.
That burst provided St Patrick's with a decisive advantage and while Rhode paired it back to three points just past the three-quarter mark, they were out-scored by 0-3 to 0-0 over the next eight minutes.
Rhode had missed two good goal chances just after White had converted the penalty, but the Offaly champions finally made the breakthrough when McNamee finished expertly to the net with three minutes remaining.
There was still sufficient time to complete the recovery, but St Patrick's held solid and denied Rhode the chance to complete the recovery.
"We managed to keep a bit of distance between us after we got the goal which was important. Everyone worked very hard, but then we have got a massive effort from the players right throughout the year," Reel said.
He acknowledged that there were unsure of exactly where they stood after winning the Louth title, but were always going to find out pretty quickly against a well-regarded Rhode outfit.
"We were moving on to a higher level and it took us a while to get used to that. We were a bit tense and nervous in the first half and kicked a fair few wides but things got better in the second half," he said.
Scorers -- St. Patrick's: K White 1-1 (1-0 pen), E Carroll 0-3 (2f), E Breen 0-2, P Keenan, E O'Connor, E White 0-1 each. Rhode: N McNamee 1-5 (0-4f), M Dunne, B Darby 0-1 each.
St Patrick's -- S Connor; J O'Hare, D Finnegan, D O'Hanlon; E Breen, C Goss, O Zamboglou; P Keenan, P Mallon; E Carroll, E O'Connor, A McGann; R Finnegan, K White, D O'Connor. Subs: E White for D O'Connor (50), M Breen for Carroll (57).
Rhode -- K Garry; E Rigney, S Sullivan, J McPadden; B Darby, E Byrne, C Heavey; A McNamee, C McNamee; P Sullivan, M Dunne, A Sullivan; P McPadden, P Kellaghan, N McNamee. Subs: S Hannon for Heavey (48), G McNamee for Byrne (55), C Flynn for P McPadden (55).
Ref -- J Curley (Meath).